By Jerry Barcon
Poverty and crimes in Liberia are rising problems that have been growing throughout the years. Many social problems in Liberia including poverty, homelessness, decaying infrastructure, inadequate public transit, pollution, failure to deliver health services to all social classes, failing public schools, drugs, gangs and crime are all concentrated in large cities throughout Liberia. Through the process of the various counties’ concentrations, the central cities have lost jobs, industry and business. They have also lost jobs in the transformation for a manufacturing to a service economy.
The declining quality of life in Liberia’s big cities is reflected in increasing and intensifying poverty. The many problems include the lack of affordable housing, homelessness, decaying infrastructural, inadequate public transit, pollution, health problems and the lack of access to adequate health care. There is also underfunded and failing schools, crime, drugs and gangs. Urban poverty has been increasing and becoming more concentrated in particular areas in the central city. The poor have been getting poorer and it’s only going to keep decreasing if something doesn’t change.
In the past three decades’ thousands of blue collar workers have lost their jobs at the results of civil war and Ebola. Almost half these newly unemployed were long time workers. Workers who had held their previous job at least for five years or more. These new poor are quite different from the old poor. The old poor are the people from other generations that have hopes of breaking out of poverty. If they did not break out themselves, at least they believed their children would. This hope was based on a rapidly expanding economy. There were jobs for farmers and high school dropouts because of the needs of mass production. The new poor however, are trapped in poverty. A generation ago, those who were unskilled and uneducated could usually find work and could even do financially well if the workers are displaced or misplaced. Hard physical labor is rarely needed in a high-tech society and this phenomenon undercuts the forts of the working class.
The Working Poor
Everyone in Liberia had heard of the “Liberian Dream.” The dream of upward mobility and economic success that is available to all Liberians. Yet, the statistics reveal that for the majority, upward mobility really is just a dream. According to studies, they show that life chances differ profoundly depending on the circumstances into which a child is born. Only a small share of the children of the poor end up earning high income, most remain in or near poverty. Who or what is to blame for poverty and lack of upward mobility? There are two very different answers to these questions. One is that the poor are in that condition because of some deficiency: either they are biologically inferior or their culture fails them by promoting character traits that impede their progress in society. Some people are poor because society has failed to provide equality in educational opportunity and because institutions discriminate against them.
Most good jobs require a college degree, but the poor cannot afford to send their children to college. Scholarships go to the best performing students. Children of the poor often do not perform well in school. This poor performance by the children results from the love of enriched preschool programs and low expectations for them among teachers and administration.
Another problem is the health epidemics throughout the country. The parents are also trapped because they get sick more often and stay sick longer than the well-to-do. These people and those just above the poverty line generally receive inferior educations, life is substandard, and the housings citizens live in are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals. Not only that they are malnourished, and have many health problems.
Liberia, by far has one of the highest rate of unemployment. The reason behind these high rates are complex with many sources, but two stand out. The extraordinary high rate of poverty in Liberia and the very high degree of inequality in Liberia (I.e., the gap between the rich and poor).
The high unemployment rate, for example leads to higher rates of poverty, crimes, homicide rates, and drugs and alcohol abuse. In fact, half of male prisoners are unemployed when arrested. Poverty damages families, and poor couples are twice as likely to divorce as more affluent couples. Jobless people are three to four times less likely to marry than those with jobs. Two thirds of teenagers who give birth come from poor or low income families, and their children are more likely to be poor.
When uninsured people get sick, they are likely to seek medical attention until they are really sick and it is more expensive to treat them, then if they were not poor already, medical bills can push them into poverty. Poverty is the leading cause into making people sick. In addition to health problems children in the poorest families are six times as likely as their affluent counterparts to drop out of school.
In conclusion, the structural explanation of poverty rests on the assumption that the way society is organized perpetuates poverty, not the characteristics of poor people. The reality is that the cause of poverty is very complicated as is evident by the diversity of the poverty population.